Yoga and politics

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Yoga and Politics

Written by Sharon Brooke Uy

It’s election year in the United States. Emotions run high, vibrations run low, and war seems increasingly extant, not just between countries, but between individual people. Fear has become the overt weapon of choice, and a very potent one at that. I often find myself thinking, “If only we had a Buddhist in office. Or a yogi. Or both.” I mentioned this to a friend recently, and she responded with a guffaw, “If that were the case, nothing would get done.” I wouldn’t say “nothing” would get done. But maybe that’s the point. After all, “nothing,” these days could be translated to, basically, “something, but slowly, far too slowly for our tastes.”

We live in an era that demands that everything be available at our fingertips, within a few milliseconds. We need more, and we need it faster than ever. We’re living in a rat race society, where competition to be the best, the most right, the most seen, the most liked, reigns. As a result, the attitude of acquiring these things “at all costs” runs rampant. This applies to social media as much as it applies to the global economy. If it’s exhausting to watch (it is), it must be exhausting to experience. And in that case, doing “nothing” seems kind of welcome, doesn’t it?

When you step onto the mat for the first time, you may find that you can’t get into uttanasana with your legs straight. Hanumanasa might seem an impossibility. But with consistent practice, without forcing it, you may find that in time, your fingertips begin to meet your toes, or the flexibility in your hamstrings and hips increases. Yoga is proof that change happens. But yoga (and change) requires patience. The process is slow, and to some, yoga may seem like “nothing” is happening. These days, people crave a forest fire of revolution, often forgetting that it begins with a tiny spark. To think that we are owed overnight transformation is to turn a blind eye to the essentiality of practice.

Integral to yoga is the practice of compassion. I say that it’d be nice to have a Buddhist run things because the way things are currently run perpetuates cycles of suffering, both personal and widespread. I suppose what I really mean is that it’d be nice to have a Bodhisattva in office. A bodhisattva is one who is motivated by, and has committed to the path of compassion and the attainment of enlightenment for all sentient beings. We’ve experienced some modern-day bodhisattvas – Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Pema Chodron, Eckhart Tolle. We’re also privy to the positive and uplifting effects these people had on so many. Imagine if at the helm of all our governments’ ships, the focus was on promoting peace rather than the demise of our enemies, if we connected with love and compassion rather than dividing using fear and hate. Perhaps these sound like pipe dreams, but I for one will show up on and off my mat to make this happen. Because yoga requires patience, change does not happen overnight, and the fires of peaceful revolution begin with the tiniest of sparks.


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